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George Mason’s NCAA magic returns in defeat of Villanova
Question of the Day
CLEVELAND – George Mason’s next generation of players scripted the start of their own NCAA tournament story Friday.
They borrowed one of the hallmarks of their famous predecessors to do it.
The eighth-seeded Patriots erased a six-point deficit in the final two minutes, ousting ninth-seeded Villanova 61-57 in an East regional round of 64 game for their first NCAA tournament victory since 2006.
“We kind of ended up as the last team standing,” coach Jim Larranaga said.
The Patriots’ sixth NCAA appearance – and only second to include a victory – already has a signature highlight for a team with T-shirts declaring they would be this year’s George Mason.
Hancock, who came within a point of his career-high, authored it when he rolled off a screen, stepped back to shake Villanova’s Corey Stokes and then drilled an outside shot to give Mason a 59-57 lead.
“Definitely not money,” Hancock said of his thoughts after hoisting the shot. “I was just kind of hoping and praying.”
Stokes missed a jumper on the ensuing possession for Villanova (21-12), and Mike Morrison finished matters off emphatically with a dunk in the final second to give Mason its first multi-possession lead of the night and set off a celebration on the bench.
“If you had a camera looking at me, I was probably at halfcourt already,” forward Johnny Williams said.
Mason, which allowed Villanova guards Corey Fisher, Maalik Wayns and Stokes to combine for 29 points in the first half, tightened up after the break. While the Patriots’ offense was moderately better in the second half, their defense stifled the Wildcats’ perimeter stars after the break.
“He lit us up in the first half and I felt like it was kind of on my shoulders,” Hancock said. “He hit a lot of big shots and I just wasn’t playing good enough defense and I wasn’t trusting my teammates enough to be able to guard their man and I was helping too much. In the second half, they just said they were going to guard theirs and they believed in me to stay on him and keeping guarding him and luckily he didn’t fry me like he did in the second half.”
Tate’s work was arguably slicker. The Wildcats’ offense flowed through Fisher, and Tate’s disruption of the veteran led Villanova to sputter offensively. Fisher, Stokes and Wayns combined to shoot 3-for-19 in the second half while managing just 12 points.
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About the Author
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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